Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Breaking Stuff and Squeezing 'Em In

Even with the hectic schedule of the holidays, I've been able to squeeze in some decent training since I last checked in. Not great, but decent.

Last Tuesday, I figured that if I was going to race on my snowshoes, I should at least run hard on my snowshoes. So, I headed for the Highland Green golf course in the evening for a temp run. So, yeah, speed work in the dark on snowshoes. Not exactly a rational choice, but it went pretty well. There's a road crossing at 1.25 miles, so I figured that the other side of the road, 3.25 miles, was the right place for the tempo run. The pace was slower than I would have liked, but I'm not really sure what to expect on snowshoes. I know it's condition dependent, but I hope to repeat this work out again.

The only negative of the run was a broken snowshoe. When I finished the run I realized that the toe cleat on my right shoe had snapped somewhere. (Note: I took my shoes off for the road crossing.) I hadn't noticed while I was running, and I was pretty disappointed. Granted, the snowpack wasn't very deep or soft, but this was only my third run in my new Dions. But, this story has a really happy ending.

That evening, I emailed Dion Snowshoes with the story of my busted shoe. The next day, much to my surprise, I received a call from Bob Dion. We talked for about 10 minutes, and he was apologetic and eager to help. He also gave me some tips for snowshoe racing this winter. In a couple days, I had a replacement cleat, and one extra just in case it happens on the other shoe. Just awesome customer service. So, in short, buy some Dions.

The rest of the week saw a couple runs on the roads. The best was 5 miles with D. Her parents offered to watch the Little Lady, so we were able to head out together. It was great to be running together again. Hopefully, once the Little Lady has better neck control we can take her out in the B.O.B. together. (I need to figure out a way to get her to push.)

On Christmas Day, I squeezed in a quick three miles, emphasis on quick. It was a time crunch, so I ran a bit too fast. Same happened two days later, when I hit the treadmill at my parents' house. Between the time crunch and my pure hatred of the treadmill, I ran 3 miles in 21:00. Ooops. I had the data panel covered because I can't bear to watch the seconds tick away, and before I realized it I'd run 2.75 miles. At that point, I just finished it off. Perhaps the Killers weren't the best choice for the iPod.

The upshot of these two quick runs, and the lack of stretching afterward, was a very tight right hamstring. Not an injured right hamstring, but it was quite guitar-string-ish. I had a bit of trouble getting out of bed on Monday, and it didn't get any better after running 5 miles in the cold rain that evening. I took yesterday off, and it felt only slightly better today. Segue...

This afternoon, I took my tight hamstring to the Bike Path for a tempo run...on ice. I'm wicked smaht. Same workout from 2 weeks ago, but I'd hoped to go a touch faster. The strange thing is that it was mission accomplished under tougher conditions, but I would describe the workout as unspectacular. The ice was a factor. The entire bike path wasn't covered, but it was certainly prevalent...and sneaky. If it looked tacky, it wasn't. If it looked slick, well, it was. OK, maybe not sneaky, but definitely a nuisance. Luckily, no major slips. The first mile was 6:44, a touch frisky. The next half mile was fine, but I needed to slow dramatically at the turnaround because of ice. (Here's the math: The bike path in 5.5 miles long. I ran 1 mile easy, then 1.5 miles of the tempo to the 2.5 mile point. I turned around at that point to finish the remaining 2.5 miles back at the beginning.) Unbeknownst to me, a not insignificant wind had been at my back the entire time. Heading back into the wind was tough, and it showed in the pace. Final three miles: 6:55, 6:57, 6:59; total time 27:35. Like I said, unspectacular. The good news is my hamstring actually feels better tonight. We'll see how it goes during the 4:00am diaper change.

Speaking of diaper changes, marvel at the cuteness:


Along with the sporadic posting (see cuteness above), I've also been remiss in my 80's references. For this I apologize and offer this: While channel surfing this evening, I stumbled upon "One Hit Wonders: New Wave" on VH1 Classic, aka the greatest channel ever. They claimed that Devo is a one hit wonder. WHA? Blasphemy.



Speaking of Devo, check out the groovy Pandora widget I've added. Devo is prominently featured in my "Skipping Gym Class" station along with the Smiths, the Cure, Depeche Mode and other awesomeness. It will make you want to get stuffed in a locker.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quick Update

I should really be in bed right now, but I'm having trouble getting up from the oh-so-comfy couch. So, here are a couple things on my mind.

1. Two great snowshoe runs in the last couple days. I really dig my new snowshoes, and I'm getting steadily more comfortable with them.

2. I'm itching to race. I'm feeling kind of, sort of, quasi-fit. It's probably all in my head, but that counts for something, right?

3. My run yesterday was in a blizzard. It hurt...my face. Bad times.

4. Try these. They're super tasty.

5. Happy Holidays! As a gift to you, here's a pic of my super adorable kiddo:



She's ready for spring training to start.

Monday, December 14, 2009

That Was Encouraging

After a great day of hanging out and running errands with my girls, I got out for a tempo run on the Bike Path as the sun was setting. In other words, it wasn't quite dark, but it was getting close. I parked in my usual spot, the one right under the sign that reads "You will be towed if you park here." It's either park there or park inside the gate, which is locked at sunset. Two out of three times I've run on the bike path in the last two weeks, the gate has been closed upon my return. I've made that embarrassing call to D before, and it's a real pain to go pick up your car the next morning. But I digress...

In short, I had a surprisingly good run. I wasn't feeling too frisky upon arrival due to the angry troll wielding a chainsaw in my belly. Not sure what I ate yesterday, but it was cranky. Luckily, he mellowed out once I got rolling. I ran one easy mile, and then got into it. My hope was to run 4 miles at 7:00/mile. In other words, up the ante from last week. I felt comfortable for the entire first mile: 6:59. Groovy. The next two miles also felt good: 6:54, 6:55. The final mile was a bit tricky because it was now mostly dark and the temperature had dropped turning some of the wet patches into icy patches. Despite the trickiness and my starting to tire, I finished with a 6:58. Total time for the 4 miles: 27:46. A one-mile cool down, and I called it a day. This run felt much better than last week. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard. I knew I was working in the final mile, but that's not a bad thing. My pacing was really encouraging, as I'd really like to get that sense back. All in all, a very encouraging workout. I'm not sure I could keep that pace up for another 6 miles (hint, hint), but encouraging, nonetheless.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another No Race Report

I'm thinking about racing a lot, so it seems odd to be posting about training. But, here goes. In short, knock on wood, things are going well. I've been feeling good and somewhat frisky on most of my runs, and the pace has reflected that. And, right now, we have a sleeping child and I'm drinking a Shipyard Prelude. Ahhhh....things are good.

I ended up running in the dark twice this week. I replaced the batteries in my headlamp, which made a big difference. In other words, I could actually see where I was going. Not certain how good my headlamp would be for anything technical, but it's been fine on the road and snow covered/icy dirt road I ran on this week. Running in the dark makes me feel like I'm flying, even though I'm not. Not sure if it has anything physical to do with the limited field of vision, or if it's all ego based since I feel hardcore for running in the dark. Either way, it's odd.

The bigger news from this week is that I did my first snowshoe run. Ever. I borrowed D's snowshoes, and since they're made for little people, they were decent for running. Although, I was running in fresh, wet snow, which made the going tough and slow. I ran a 1/2 mile loop around the Mt. Ararat trails three times, and I was pretty happy with that. Luckily, a snowmobile had already been through earlier, so about 1/3 of the loop was packed. I was very pleased to see how comfortably I was able to move along on the packed snow. It was a good run, even though I was out in the wind-driven snain. Snain is gross. I carried the shoes the 1/2 mile to the trails, but realized on my way back that there was enough snow packed on the roads to leave them on the whole way home. Overall, it was a great first snowshoe experience. Obviously, I need to increase the distance, but it was too gross to be out any longer the other day.

And, really, my entire focus right now is on snowshoeing. Specifically, the Granite State Snowshoe Series. I've never raced snowshoes before, but I think it will be a blast. Painful, but a blast. And, as I've mentioned, way better than running on roads all winter. Blech. And, as you see at left, my new snowshoes arrived the other day! I'm going to wait until we get more snow to give them a try (or go somewhere that has enough snow), so I don't mangle them on a rock the first time out. Hopefully, I'll be able to get some time on them before the first race of the series, which is on Jan. 2. I'm even more hopeful that a couple Trail Monsters will join me in the suffering. So, like I said, snowshoe racing is my focus right now, and part of the plan is to race myself into shape. The final race of the series in a 10k on March 14 (hosted at a place I know fairly well), and it's going to be a really, really tough race. That's the focus. But, I'm not really sure how to focus. That's the trick. Once I get a couple races under my belt, hopefully, I'll have a better idea how to train. In the meantime, I'm going to throw into the mix a couple workouts that focus on suffering. I think suffering will be the key to successful snowshoe racing. Mmmmm...suffering.

Of course, as I write about snowshoeing, it's raining. I think I need to get screw shoes ready to go...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No Race Report

First of all, proof that I did actually out kick someone. This is the finish of the Maine Running Company Turkey Trot:

That's worth $5 at Hannaford right there! Photo from Maine Running Photos.

With my recent string of races, it's been feeling a bit strange to post an entry without a race report. But that doesn't mean things haven't been going well, and this week, I put in a solid week of training.

I have to admit that I was pretty sore after Hell. Those trails are way to hard to try to run fast on them. And, on Monday, the feeling on my run could be best be described as creaky. Tuesday was better, and then my life schedule dictated that Wednesday would be a day off.

Wednesday night it rained. A lot. And, Thursday was your typical December day with temps in the mid 60's. Huh? It was tough to make the mental leap to wearing just shorts and a t-shirt. So, between the temperature and the numerous a deep puddles along the powerline trail, I had a really fun run. It was so wet in fact, that I didn't even look muddy...just wet.

Friday ended up being a hectic day between work and the chaos of having an 8-week old baby. I didn't have a chance to run until late. And, late this time of year means dark. With limited options, I decided on marking the official start of winter with a run on the bike path. I only run on the bike path in winter (because it's plowed) and hadn't been out there since February. It also a good option in the dark because I don't have to worry about cars. It's not exactly lighted really, so I brought my headlamp, which most likely needs new batteries because it did a less than stellar job of illuminating the paved path. According to my "training plan," Friday was a day for a tempo run, so within minutes I went from staying inside and not running at all, to just sneaking in a short run, to running kind of hard. I was glad I stuck to the plan, but I was less than thrilled with my results. I'm going to blame it on the dark, but based on my recent results and goals plugged into McMillan, I was slower than I would have liked for the effort. Although, I was trying to not go too hard and keep the suffering in check, since that would defeat the purpose of the tempo run. Of course, this smacks of what I think my biggest strength is: suffering. I'm a good sufferer, so if I was trying not to suffer then why would I be impressed? Either way, I do think the darkness was a factor as I had trouble pacing myself. My hope was to run between 6:50 and 7:00 for each of the three miles. My splits were: 7:29, 7:11 and 6:52. So, not bad, but, like I said, it felt harder than I would have liked.

On Saturday, my original plan was to run with the crew at Bradbury, but after a enjoyable night of limited sleep thanks to the Little Lady, I involuntarily opted to sleep in. When I woke up with 5 minutes to get to Bradbury, I thought rolling over and snoring some more was a good option. I did get out for a short run later in the day and was pleased to see that all the parts felt good after the previous evening's festivities.

Today, we woke to about 4 inches of new snow on the ground, and that made my run plans that much more awesome. My plan was to hit the trails of the Cathance River Preserve, and I didn't waver from them. I was breaking trail most of the way, although I was both pleased and excited to see that a pair of folks had been walking down by the river. I couldn't blame them, as it was beautiful. Snow makes everything better, and today was no exception. Of course, snow also make everything more slippery, so the footing was tricky but fun. I stayed upright the entire time despite a couple close calls. It was definitely one of those "this is why I run" kind of runs. I think the loop is about 6.5 miles (possibly longer) and looking back through my training log, I was pleased to see that I was only a couple minutes slower for the loop than during other times I've run it. Final time was 1:05:09, which is right about 10:00 per mile, which I'm pretty happy with for that terrain in the snow. I just wish I'd brought my camera.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blackstrap Hell II - Race Report

If you can find a tougher, gnarlier, nastier 10k out there, I'll give you a dollar. I doubt you'll find one that's more fun either.

First of all, many thanks to Jeff for putting on one HELL of a race. He did a great job organizing it, and coming up with the timing system. It's a reverse pursuit race. Jeff puts his PhD to good use and determines projected finish times for each runner. The slower your projected time, the earlier you start. The hope is that the faster runners catch the less fast runners, and everyone finishes around the same time. And, amazingly enough, it ended up pretty close to that.

My start time was pretty close to the middle of the pack of 35 or so runners. I was pretty comfortable with this, but I was less comfortable with my starting companions—Ian and Chuck. Nothing personal, but I know they are both much faster than I am...especially over the type of terrain Blackstrap Hell throws at you. At the "gun," Chuck took off fast, and Ian was hot on his heels. I wanted to run my own race, but I also knew it would be good to try to stay with these guys as long as possible. Within the first 1/4 mile I almost fell twice since I was paying more attention to them than my own race. I consciously backed off to really run my own race, and I actually stayed moderately close to them until I saw them turn off the powerline trail. That was the end of them. And, they indeed both run great races and crushed me.

I passed Ryan, Lily and another runner shortly after I made the turn onto the singletrack that follows the powerlines, and I finally started to feel good. I didn't feel great for the first mile or so, which I attribute to lack of warm up. But once I felt good, I felt like I was rolling. You can never really open it up on this course because you're either climbing a nasty hill, climbing a slippery muddy hill, tip-toeing over leave-covered trails that hide ankle breaking roots and rocks, splashing through calf deep puddles, trying to stay on the trail...well, you get the idea...it's nasty. But, when I could run "normally" I felt good and really pushed it. It was clear, though, that I've been running road 5ks and nothing really hard, but I wasn't surprised by that.

Last year, I fell three times during the race, so I knew I would go down at some point. Today, I only fell once, but I did manage to pop right back up. At the bottom of the hill following the turn off the gas line, it was really squishy, and I went down on my right side. I whacked my hip and outside of my calf pretty good, but I was glad to get the fall out of the way.

Eventually, I reached the never ending hill that leads back to the powerlines. It takes about a month to run this hill, but I finally had people to chase. I'd been running for a long time alone, but the eventual fastest male, Peter, passed me just at the bottom. I could only stay with him for about a half a step as he is one fast dude. He was closely followed another fast dude, Floyd, and I dug down and stayed with him as long as I could—maybe 3 steps. OK, it was better than that, and I appreciated getting pulled up the hill.

Once the month I was over, I reached the powerlines and really tried to open it up. I knew that I had somewhere in the neighborhood of a mile to go, so it was time to finish it up. I had motivation as I spotted someone in front of me and quickly realized it was Jamie. My first thought was "I hope he's OK." He had started before me, and I never expected to catch him. But, I now had my motivation and went for it. I was closing on him until the new section of singletrack that made up the final portion of the course. I'm pretty certain that the trail designers were hammered when they put this piece together. It was amazingly twisty and turny. It was fun to run, but it wasn't necessarily fun to try to run it fast after running the rest of the Hell course. Around one of the corners, I ran into a tree and scratched my left arm pretty good. So, only one fall, but I did get bloodied. At one of the many hairpins, Jamie and I exchanged pleasantries, and I knew then that I probably wasn't going to catch him. The element of surprise was gone, and I figured he would do everything in his power to stay ahead of me—I was right. I'm not sure how close I got to him, but he ended up putting about 30 seconds on me by the end. In other words, I died and he smoked me. I did actually die on one particular uphill in the singletrack section, and I was just hoping to get to the finish. Just before the finish the trail opened up, and you could actually run. It was nice to feel like I was running fast at the end.

I finished 14th overall with the 9th fastest time: 1:00:05. (Results) That's a long 10k, and, in reality, the course is somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.5, even though it feels much longer than that. And, overall, I'm pleased with my race. I certainly haven't been training for anything like this, and it's also the longest distance I've run in weeks. Best of all, I won the "guess your time" prize. My guess for my time was 59:59, so I only missed by 6 seconds. The prize? Beer.

All in all, it was a great day. In addition, D hung out with the Little Lady the whole time, and she even was good during the post-race pizza and beer. (If you're wondering, she's been an absolute terror since we got home.) A great day in the mud with friends!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Maine Running Company Turkey Trot 5k - Race Report

"OH CRAP!" (Or something to that effect) was how the day the day started at 6:45am. We had failed to set our alarm, since the Little Lady usually wakes up a little earlier. After seriously debating getting out of bed or not, I knew that I'd be mad at 8:00, when I was wide awake, if I didn't go for it. And, with the late start, it looked extremely unlikely that we'd be able to get the Little Lady fed and packed up so we could all go together. But, miraculously, we made it work, and I was at race registration shortly after 8:00am—an hour before the race start.

I hadn't decided to run this race until Friday, when I mentioned it to D, and she said that she thought I could run and she could hang with the Little Lady. And, in truth, I'm not really sure I knew this race was happening until I read about on Maine Running Company's Facebook page on Tuesday. So, I hadn't pre-registered, and I wasn't exactly mentally focused. But, I hoped it would be "fun," and based on last week's result, hoped I could run OK.

I got in a decent warm up and realized that the return trip on this almost all out and back course was going to be rough—the entire last mile was into the wind and boasted a couple toothy uphills. Of course, that meant the first mile was mostly downhill. In other words, this course, while seeming benign could really bring the hurt—especially if you went out too fast.

I made my way to the starting line and felt like the only guy who didn't know anyone. Road races are weird. I was also a little uncomfortable because I felt like I was too far towards the front of the pack. I was leery of getting pulled out too fast, so I backed up a bit. But when I backed up, the second tier was full of walkers and strollers and people with walkers pushing strollers. Again, road races are weird. So, I moved back up a touch with some trepidation. Then suddenly, the air horn sounded, and we were off. I hugged the left hand side of the road, and watched the masses sprint away. I settled into a comfortable pace and slowly passed a number people through the first half mile. I just kept thinking, "Easy, easy, easy," as the course went downhill.

The course turned into a neighborhood just before the 1 mile mark, and I had a moment of panic. I could see the clock at the 1-mile mark in front of me, and it read, "6:58." "No wonder this felt so easy. CRAP! I'm going waaaayyy too slowly." As I got closer, I realized that it had actually read, "5:58," and I went through the first mile in 6:16. "Well, that was a touch frisky," I thought. So, I consciously dialed it back a notch and hoped that it was the downhill that caused the fast pace and that I wouldn't pay for it later.

I stayed relaxed throughout the next mile dropping back a touch from the 4 guys that passed me shortly after the mile mark. The wind was at my back here, so that was no problem, until we entered the second neighborhood loop. This loops begins the turnaround back to the finish, and this is where the wind started to be a factor. Luckily, two guys passed me just near the turnaround, and I was able to use them as a bit of a wind break coming into the 2-mile mark—13:00. "OK, that was a 6:45 mile. Time to do a little work."

Pre-race, I had hoped in a best case scenario to go through 2 miles around 13 minutes, so I was right on target and feeling pretty comfortable. Good signs. I passed one of my wind breaks on the short uphill just after the 2-mile mark, and set my sights on "Anti-Tangent Man." He was one of the runners that passed me before the 2-mile mark, and I had noticed that he wasn't really running the tangents. It was particularly obvious as we wove through the final neighborhood section: we were on completely opposite sides of the road. His hatred of tangents allowed me to move right up behind him as we turned back onto the main road. I stayed behind him to help break the wind, and we closed in on some runners in front of us.

The last mile was hard. The wind was dead in our faces. At the bottom of a short and the only downhill on the way back, I passed Anti-Tangent Man, and was poised to pass another runner—Blue Shirt Guy. Just at that moment, Blue Shirt Guy saw his wife?, girlfriend?, mistress?, sister?, cousin?—who knows, but she was definitely a woman and she gave him a temporary boost. He zipped away for a few strides until the course went uphill. I passed him on the uphill and set my sights on the group of three ahead. Somewhat to my surprise, I was reeling them in.

During my warm up, I had picked a point on the final hill that was my "all out" point. I was so focused on the group, I missed it. I really wanted to get those three guys and had really started digging before that point. The head was down, and I didn't even realize I had passed it. No matter, as I passed two of them on the hill and the third just past the top. I made the final turn into the school driveway towards the finish and saw the 3-mile mark and clock. It read 19: something. I couldn't really see too well at this point and was just hoping my arms would keep pumping. The legs were good, but the upper body was giving out. Cheers from D and her sister certainly helped keep me going—can't get passed in the homestretch in front of the fans!

That last .1 was the longest .1 E.V.E.R. I could not get to the finish soon enough. In fact, I'm going to go back and measure it—I think it's closer to a half mile. Felt like it anyway. Once I saw I wasn't going to break 20 minutes, I backed off for half a step, but quickly realized that was lame. I pushed through the finish in 20:19. To my surprise, that was good enough for 25th overall (out of 453) and 2nd in my age group. (Results) The age group place is a bit suspect because they used 5 year increments, e.g. 30-34, but I'll take it. I'll also take the $10 Hannaford Gift Card I won. As it turns out, the guy I passed at the very end was also in my age group. Admittedly, I was shocked to beat that guy because I noticed him at the start, and he looked...well...fast. I chatted with him briefly at the end, and all we could talk about was the wind. It blew.

Overall, I'm very pleased. I had dreams of breaking 20, but not with the wind today. I ran the out-and-back portion of the course on the main road for my cool down, and I couldn't believe I did that. Running in that wind was no fun. I'd say that this race was a good barometer for my fitness. It's clear that the strength is there based on my performance on the final, hilly mile, but I'd really like to crank up the speed a bit. Perhaps doing some type of speed work would help... To this point, I've done a couple "up tempo" short runs and 5x strides two or three times a week. So, there's no reason I should expect to be fast. And, as I've typed a bajillion times here: upper body work is in order. But, really, this is a good start.

Thanks to D's sister for coming out to cheer. And, of course, huge thanks to D for not only allowing me to get out to race, but also for coming along and watching the Little Lady while I was racing. And, thanks to everyone for hanging out afterward, so I could pick up my $10 Hannaford Gift Card—the prize for second in my age group. And, thanks to Tim Hortons for being a tremendous post-race stop—so delicious! Although road races really aren't my thing (my shins are not pleased this evening), this particular one was very well organized all the way around, and I wouldn't mind returning. Well, only if they turn off the wind.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Familiar Territory

Despite the lack of posting, I have been running this week. I did not actually crumble into pieces after the Wolfe's Neck Trek 5k. I've been feeling pretty good, and have enjoyed the locations of my runs. Two out of the three runs this week, I got back to places I haven't run in a while. Not quite the walk down memory lane that Wolfe's Neck was, but it was nice to get back to some familiar ground. Let's go for a stroll, shall we?

On Tuesday, I was able to get back to the carriage roads at Great Glen Trails. I hadn't been out on the trail system in a while, and while I wanted to run longer—I was feeling good—I really only had time for 3 miles. I can for certain report that I saw more than a handful of moose tracks and one big ol' pile of moose poop. I can with much less certainly report that I may have seen an owl. At one point, a very large bird took off to my right. I could only see it as it flew away, and it was only briefly, but I'm not sure what else it could have been. I felt good and finished comfortably in 26:43, which is quite a bit faster than I normally run the same loop. I closed the run out with strides as the sun was setting behind the Presidentials. Not bad.

Thursday I had to hit the road to Boston for work, but I did squeeze in a 3 miler on the powerlines from home. It was icy! Quite a bit of hoar frost—my personal favorite ground condition. I was a bit sluggish and tight out of the gate but felt fine by the time I finished.

After driving to Boston and back yesterday, I was a bit tight today. Really tight: calves, hamstrings and most troublesome, my left knee—just below and to the inside of the kneecap. It just kind of appeared after driving and then standing around yesterday. It didn't bother me on my run, so other than extra stretching, I'm not going to worry about it. I wanted to get in 5 miles today, but I needed a break from the powerlines. Plus, the powerlines are a bit rugged in places, and I was hoping for a more mellow route. I hadn't run in the Commons at all since D and I ran together shortly before the Little Lady arrived, and I hadn't run the full 5-mile loop since the end of August. Between working, watching the Little Lady while D was at a doctor's appointment and being completely covered in spit up (not mine), I didn't get out until late. It was getting dark as I started, and it was really dark by the end. Normally, I'd begin the run with a loop on the trails that surround the Bowdoin fields, but I wanted to make sure I could see while out on the rest of the trails so I opted to save it for the end. This was a wise decision because I could barely see by the end and actually had to walk some of the rootier, tricky sections. Upon returning to the fields, I ran around the perimeter of the fields on the grass. It was dark, but at least I didn't have to worry about roots. The quarter moon, while beautiful over the fields, wasn't quite throwing enough light. And, even though I've done about eleventy billion runs through the Commons, it's always enjoyable.

Looking ahead, I might do another 5k on Sunday...this one all on the road...cue evil music.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wolfe's Neck Trek 5k - Race Report

Headed to Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport yesterday for the Wolfe's Neck Trek 5k to test the waters, so to speak. And, while it went well, I'm not really sure I learned what I wanted. I was hoping to use this race as a measuring stick to see just exactly where I am. Unfortunately, the course had other ideas. I knew from running at Wolfe's Neck a lot in college, that the terrain was going to be primarily dirt road, but we ran on more of the campground roads than I expected and the singletrack was much more rugged than I remembered. I was really looking forward to racing here, 1.) because I was actually able to get my sleep deprived butt to the starting line and 2.) Wolfe's Neck is the site of my "8k" PR. 8k is in quotes because the course we ran that day was definitely short, and it was the first race of my junior year in a dual meet. That should give you an idea of the success I had during my college career...but I digress.

Once I realized that the course was two loops, not one (Thanks, Val!), I went out for my warm up on the course. Pre-race I was debating road shoes vs. trail shoes. I went with my trail shoes, and that was definitely the right call. The main dirt road in front of the farm was plenty firm enough and close to pavement, but the roads through the campground were a lot softer. The singletrack section, while short—quarter of a mile maybe, was rugged: lots of roots, steep up and downs and two slippery bridges. Additionally, the campground roads are very twisty and had quite a lot of leaf cover. In short, that all added up to a lot of fun, but not particularly fast, even though it's fairly flat. Subconsciously, I realized this on my warm up, but didn't think much of it on my easy one lap tour.

As the race started, I settled into a comfortable pace after weaving through the usual cast of characters that sprint for the first 50 yards. I was in about 12th, and feeling very relaxed. I tucked in behind a couple guys through on windy spot, and stayed behind them as we reached the singletrack. Even though there were only a handful of people in front of me, we still bottlenecked. I was clearly more comfortable on this section than everyone around me, but I had no reason to not play nice. Plus, it was such a short section I just hung tight and stayed relaxed. Once back on the campground road, it started to feel like a race, but I was still focused on staying relaxed. I went through the first lap, 2.5k, in 11:04. This split was a shock. I was running way too hard for it to be that slow.

The second lap hurt. Shortly into the lap, one guy passed me, but I was able to stick with him into the singletrack. I closed the gap in the singletrack, but once back on the road he started to pull away. My upper body was starting to tighten up: back, shoulders, arms. Not good times. As the road through the campground makes it way back up to the farm, there is a slight uphill. It was slight, but it hurt. At one point the road takes a sharp left, then right. I ran hard through these corners in the hopes of putting some distance between me and my closest pursuer, even just for a psychological edge. It didn't work. In the last 400 meters, a small child blew past me. OK, he was fourteen, and I tried hard not to laugh. I definitely laughed on the inside. His head was titled way back, and it was clear he had spent all fall running high school cross country. The last time I ran 400-meter repeats he was probably just learning to walk, so I knew I couldn't hang with him. I heard a loud, "Go Snowman!!!" (Thanks again, Val!) and tried to stay strong through the finish.

I finished in 11th place out of 106, 3rd in my age group, in 22:47—results here. (That's an impressive positive split.) Post-race, everyone was astonished at their times. No one could believe how slow they were. One guy I spoke with after the race had raced the 10k in Freeport last weekend, and he noted that his 5k split from the 10k was faster. So, I wasn't alone. Looking at the results, my per mile pace is listed as 6:54. A 22:47 5k works out to 7:20 per mile, but 6:54 pace is correct if the race is 3.3 miles. So, my guess is that the course was not only slow, but also long. Either way, the course was fun and the race was well organized. And, the setting us beautiful—you run right along the ocean. I hope it fits into my schedule next year.

It was also great to see Trail Monster Linda as well. She ran great and had a really strong finish. And, once again, thanks to Val for cheering.

As far as using this race at a litmus test, I'm not sure I got what I wanted. The vagaries of the course make it tough to have any definitive conclusions. That being said, overall, I'm pleased. Aside from strides following 2 of my last 3 runs, I've done nothing to help myself run fast. (No surprise I got outkicked.) With some creative math, I can probably come up with some numbers for workouts and goals, etc. But, not quite yet. I should have a better idea after the Feaster Five. I'm just not sure if I'm going to run the 5-mile or the 5k. We'll see.

Today, I did an easy 3-mile recovery run. Aside from a little extra tightness in my hamstrings, no complaints. I felt better with each step. Onward.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Plan

I've alluded to it here, but I've come up with a rough plan for my running. I'm in the getting my feet wet stage of that plan, and I'm already psyched about it. Hopefully, it will lead to good things.

Here are the basics:
1. Taking a break from marathons/ultras
2. Race more
3. Have fun

Let's look at each of those separately, even though they're intertwined:
#1: Through extensive scientific analysis, I've determined that my strength may lie in the shorter races. Additionally, in my return to running, I think I did it backwards: dove right into the longer races skipping right over the shorter ones. More importantly, I really dove in and tried to just run too much, too long, too soon. So, I'm going to break from those for a bit. It's not a divorce. We're just going to spend a little time apart. Once I feel like I've finished what I need to in the shorter races, I'll let the marathon move back in. In fact, the last run I've done of double digit mileage was the Bruiser, and in my recent runs, I'm already feeling much snappier. It's a good feeling.

#2: With that snappiness in mind, I'm going to try to convert that snappiness into racing more. Now, there's a difference between snappy and fast. I'm not fast. I don't expect to get to fast. I would like to get to kinda quick, though. But, the real reason to race more is simple: I like racing. I love atmosphere. I love the energy. I love competing. When I'm training for a marathon, I can't race too much. It's a long training cycle that builds up to the "big day." I feel like I've been missing out on what I love most about running. So, my focus will be on getting faster, but really...

#3. ...my focus will be on having fun. Now, I definitely not saying that I haven't been having fun. But, I was crushed this summer, and racing wasn't fun. (Do I really need to link to my Bruiser race report again?) Also, I don't want to imply that marathons/ultras aren't fun. No way. They can be super awesome. And, when I think they'll be fun, I'll be right back to them. Just not right now. So, here's what I'm thinking will be fun: snowshoe racing.

This winter, I'm going to give snowshoe racing a try. Never done it, but I'm looking forward to it. If I'm going to race more, I see no reason to do a bunch of "Frigid Fivers" on the roads all winter. Sounds like shin splints to me! No thanks. If anyone has snowshoe advice, I'll take it. It's going to involve a fair amount of driving, but I think it will be worth it. I'll no doubt do a couple road races here and there, too, including the most hated race on earth.

In the short term, I'm racing this weekend! On Saturday, I'm heading to the Wolfe's Neck Trek 5k. Wolfe's Neck is beautiful, and we used to run there once a week or so in college—I'll be fueled by nostalgia. My only goal for this race is to establish a baseline. I haven't been doing any real speed work, so I really need to find out where I am. Once I know what my current 5k race pace is, I'll now how to structure future workouts. And, I'll know just how far I have to go. I'm, most likely, also going to run the Feaster Five again this year (FREE PIE!), so that will also give me more data.

So that's the plan for this fall and winter. Looking way ahead, I think I'm going to give the New England Mountain Running Series a try. I guess I have a really twisted sense of fun.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Not Fast

Couple good runs the last few days.

Felt quite good on Friday on my Tour de Mt. Ararat. I have a "loop" I've created that includes a bit of pavement, some dirt road, some single track, some soft sand and some steep ups and downs. It's a lot to cram into a loop that's only 3.25 miles long. And, really, it's not even a loop. Loop implies a circle. This route looks more like a crazy straw. I like it. I call it my "Half Hour Loop." On Friday, it took me just a touch over 28 minutes. Not bad.

I had a really busy weekend, so I wasn't able to run. But yesterday I did the more than 5 mile out and back on the powerlines. I was tight, but it was a great day to be out and a good run overall. One of the houses that backs up to the powerlines is home to a cadre of pugs and bulldogs. They're behind a fence and never pleased to see me run past. However, watching bulldogs run is hilarious.

Today, as part of the plan I've yet to announce, I wanted to pick up the pace a little bit. The Suck Loop has been my drug of choice for these runs. No warm up, just go. I did best my time from the other day, but it wasn't what I was looking for. My plan was to run the first two miles comfortably quick, then let it all hang out on the final mile. Mission accomplished in the first two miles: 14:38, but the final mile was a disappointment: 6:49. Total time: 21:27. That's not really gonna get it done. Not terrible, but I was hoping for a little more. Granted, I haven't been doing any speed work at all, but I was hoping to go a little lower. Oh well. I will say, I was quite stiff in my upper body. I felt positively robotic.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Three in a Row

That's three runs, three days in a row. But, more about that in a second. Allow me to wax political for a moment.

So, Maine got it wrong. I'm embarrassed and angry that Maine chose ignorance and intolerance over...well...over people. For me, it's not about rights or equality, it's about people. Real people are affected by this. Real people who love each other. It's sad that Maine said, "No," to love.

And for that they cheered...


To me, that looks like a cheer for hatred.

Now that I'm a parent I have a different perspective on this. Would these people feel the same way if their son, daughter or grandchild was gay? My daughter is only 4 weeks old, and I have no idea what she is going to become. All I know is that I'm going to love her no matter what. I hope I can teach her the same. I hope she can grow up in world with more love.

I know I don't normally touch on such serious topics here, but this has been troubling me all day. Let's move on.

I meant to mention this the other day, but I sincerely hope everyone had a chance to watch the New York City Marathon on Sunday. Meb's performance was amazing and inspiring. Hopefully, Universal Sports will have a replay. One of the most exciting races I've ever watched. It's even more amazing when you read this terrific recap from LetsRun.com. All this crap about him no being American is ridiculous. I've already been serious enough in this post, so I'll just say this: Meb is more American than many of us born into our citizenship who, myself included, take it for granted all too often.

With all this on my mind, I did a run along the powerlines today—the three-mile out and back. It was a milestone run in that it was the first time since the Little Lady arrived that I've run three days in a row. It was a cool, but beautiful, afternoon, and I just took it easy. Aside from some tightness in my right calf, which I iced afterward, I'd say it went pretty well: 24:57. I'll take it. And, those winter berries sure are pretty.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Not Quite Five

After much internal debate, I headed out for a run this afternoon while D was taking the Little Lady for a walk. When you have a newborn, stuff gets missed, forgotten, lost. Today, we forgot to make coffee. Not sure how it happened. It just did. And, we both were feeling the effects. I was tired this afternoon, and not really feeling like running. In fact, I was downright ornery. But, as it so often is once you get moving the run heals all. And, such was the case today.

It was surprisingly cool as I headed out. The breeze was downright cold. I warmed up eventually, but it took a while. It was appropriate that I finally noticed the winter berries D wrote about. Very pretty. And, in order to see those, I was out along the powerlines, but just on a short stretch as I decided to do a slightly longer loop through Highland Green. I figured I was less likely to get shot by a hunter in a 55-plus housing community vs. the more remote sections of the powerlines. I was definitely tight from yesterday's effort, but things soon worked themselves out. Overall, an uneventful run, but a good one. The best part was the view of the sunset on my way towards home. Beautiful reds, oranges and pinks.

I thought the loop was 5, but when I finished, I was stunned. My watch read 39:20. Hmmm...I felt good, but no that good. (It's not uncommon for me to not look at my watch at all on my runs, and today was no different.) D confirmed that the loop is closer to 4.75, so that makes more sense...sort of. That works out to 8:17 per mile. So, that's about 45 seconds per mile slower than yesterday's run over an additional 1.75 miles. It doesn't seem like that equates to how much easier today felt. I know a lot of factors go into "feel," but this seems odd. Could it be that I have a very specific pace threshold? Interesting.

Planning another run tomorrow. That will be three days in a row, which will be a first since the new sleep schedule. Hopefully, we have another good night. And, if you're curious about how we're feeling about all this, D summed it up beautifully.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blog Guilt?

It's taken me a while to notice that my blog is all about runs without any real details. By contrast, in her blog, D does a great job of painting a picture. She writes about the weather, the colors, the flora, the fauna, and the smells if she's with me. First of all, I probably only notice about half of the sights and sounds she does. But, secondly, I'm more focused on the task at hand. Even though I'm old, slow and fat, I'm still focused on the numbers and the end result. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but then in my posts, I'm leaving out a lot of details. No real numbers and no real descriptions. And, on my run today, I figured out why.

Taking the narcissism of a blog a step further, I realized I've left out the details because I subconsciously want to keep them a secret. I'm worried that someone I know from olden days will realize just how old, slow and fat, I've really become. I don't want to be embarrassed for being so relatively slow. Then, in a really strange twist of psychology, I want to keep the numbers a secret so if, by chance, a potential "opponent" is reading this blog, they won't know the details of my workouts. This way, I maintain an advantage over them in an upcoming race. Damn, I'm messed up. Well, I'm going to put an end to that. Because, really, who cares?

With that in mind, today I ran the 3-mile Suck Loop in 22:33. Until today, the fastest I'd run this loop was 24:01. So, today was a big step up. In my plan that I've yet to fully lay out here, I've decided that I need to pick up the pace from time to time, and today was definitely one of those days. (It helps that I got a pretty decent night of sleep last night. Not uninterrupted, but I'll take it.) That being said, today's run wasn't easy. It wasn't hard, but I was working. I'm also working on lifting my legs. Sounds simple, but I really need to stretch it out. I've developed a pretty solid marathon shuffle, but I need to find some speed of days gone by. The 7:30 per mile pace was a good test, and I think I passed. Most of the time I'm running 8:30-9:00 per mile, which is great for my easy runs, but from time to time, I need to add a little zip.

Oh yeah, there were a bunch of different colored leaves on the ground at one point. And, I saw a squirrel.

In other news, we've moved into cloth diapers for the Little Lady. Thank God we just bought a new washer and dryer.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Warming Up

Headed out on the powerlines on a perceptively cool afternoon. It looked nice and the temp was in the low 50's, but the wind was up. There are two points in the run where I crest two hilltops, and along the powerlines there isn't exactly much of a wind break. Chilly.

Aside from the surprise coolness, I had a great run. I was a little sluggish at the start, but I warmed up. Hmmm...I remember this feeling. On all my recent runs, my energy has waned throughout, but not today. I actually felt better at the end than I did at the start. I had a good feeling even before I went out because I felt like I hadn't run in a week. I'd only taken one day off, but I was itching to get at it. And, on top of all that, I ran the route faster than I had planned—about 30 seconds faster per mile. Totally by accident. Hmmm...another good sign. Hopefully, this means I getting used to the new sleep schedule. Just in time for the Little Lady to change her mind...

Speaking of the Little Lady, I'm currently wearing my Pineland Farms Trail Challenge (cotton) t-shirt. It has barf on it. I didn't even barf during the race. That's funny.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Leg Lift?

First of all, let me state for the record, that I'm not complaining about my new sleep schedule. It must just sound like it. It's not meant to. I'm really just trying to document the latest phase of this experiment: sleep deprivation training.

With that in mind, onto the runs. Yup, plural. Two runs the last two days. Results are mixed. Yesterday, I ran the loop I've deemed the "Suck Loop."

"Danielle, I'm headed out."
"OK, where you going?"
"Just the Suck Loop."
"OK, have fun."

It's the Suck Loop. It's 3 miles of mostly road. It's fairly flat. It's easy. It's boring. It sucks. But, it's really convenient and a good quick way to get the blood flowing. And, since it's mostly road, it's easy to pick up the tempo. I ran this loop last week, and somewhat accidentally ran it faster than I ever had. So, when I headed out yesterday, I thought that it wouldn't be such a bad idea to raise the tempo a bit again. I ended up running it even faster yesterday, in an effort that I would describe as "comfortably quick." I'd like to incorporate more of the not quite easy efforts in the future. It's definitely not speed work, but it should help. I felt pretty good and hoping I was getting used to the sleep change.

Not so much. Today, I felt like crap. Well, not total crap, but definitely sluggish. It barely felt like I was getting my legs off the ground. No lift at all. The route I chose was the extension of the 3-mile out and back on the powerlines, which brings the route to 5.25. The weather was perfect, and it was great to be out, but I just wasn't feeling it. It was also apparently a good evening to ride your ATV or MotoX bike as I was nearly killed by a trio of teens along the trail. The trail under the powerlines is a popular spot for riding, and I've encountered a number of ATVs and bikes in the past with pleasant results. I guess it was just a matter of time.

Upon returning home, D was trying to settle the Little Lady down by using the mobile that came with the Pack N' Play. It plays music. Music that makes you want to stick a lit blowtorch in your eye. It's brutal. But, apparently, the Little Lady "needs the stimulation." I'm already dreading the Sponge Dora the Gabba Wubbzy era.

Friday, October 23, 2009

12

Twelve miles. That's what I managed this week. Pretty meager, but considering the circumstances, I'll take it.

The fresh legs vs. sleep deprivation battle continues. It's a very interesting feeling during my runs. I feel great at the start, but slowly the freshness fades and the fatigue sets in. Eventually, the two meet, and I trudge along. Well, I feel like I'm trudging along anyway. Surprisingly, my pace has been somewhat quick (for me) on my runs this week. So, overall, I'd say I feel pretty good. Hopefully, I'll get used to the lack of sleep and Samantha will fall into a somewhat regular pattern. If so, I should be able to continue to build.

The biggest struggle has been my hamstrings. They're so tight. Now, I've always been a big fan of sleep, but I've never really paid much attention to how it actually rejuvenates your body. Anyone have a rejuvenation machine that I could hook up to during the day? Again, hopefully, I'll adjust. Of course, I know I have nothing to complain about. D did spend 9 months cooking the baby.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sleep Deprivation vs. Fresh Legs

So, we had a baby. That's certainly changed things. And, I'd say that it's certainly been a good change. Probably because she's the most beautiful baby in the world. Well, half the time anyway. The other half of the time she looks more like Kuato. Hopefully, she'll grow out of that. We love her anyway.

You can check out a whole host of photos here. C'mon, you know you can't resist!

As far as running goes, there hasn't been much going. Of course, I had grand plans of not skipping a beat, but 7 hours of sleep in the first three nights put the kibosh on that plan. I ended up taking a full week off after her birth, and it really showed on my first run back. I didn't feel as horrible as I thought I would, but I was really tight during and after. Another 2 days off followed, but I've actually run the last two days. These runs have coincided with two solid nights of sleep. Well, an average of 7 hours each of the last two nights. It takes us 12 hours to get those 7 hours, but we'll take it. Both runs have gone OK. I'm in more of a keep-the-blood-flowing mode, but that's the best I can hope for right now. And, based on a lot of horror stories we've heard about barely sleeping at all when a baby arrives, I am not complaining. Weather looks nice tomorrow, so I'll probably try to make it three in a row. Just short runs, but they've been nice. Serious training can wait. Although, I've hatched a bit of a scheme for the rest of the year. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

La Sportiva is NOT OK

After the untimely demise of my first pair of La Sportivas, I did, in fact, receive a new pair directly from them. And, they arrived rather quickly. As I mentioned, I wasn't sure if I was going to do much running in them, and I haven't run a step in them. I have worn them around, to work, and such. Here's what they look like:



As you can see, one of the soles has lost a number of its lugs. The yellow pieces are actually just glued onto the black sole. And, in this case, I use the term glued loosely. The most rugged terrain these shoes have seen is my kitchen floor, and they're falling apart. That's two pairs of shoes that are lemons. So, I have to draw the conclusion that La Sportiva makes a crappy product. Very disappointing. I'm on the fence whether or not to do anything about it. I could email them again, and go through the process again. But, do I really need another pair of La Sportivas? Maybe it's just this model. Or, maybe they all suck.

On the running front, I had a crappy run today. Just felt off. Oh well. I probably had a bunch on my mind.

Speaking of that, we're having a baby tomorrow. That's different.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Starting Up Again

This week marked the beginning of getting back into "real" running. I have a very rough plan for a mileage ramp up laid out, but I'm not going to be a slave to it. And, that's a good thing because I'm already off of it. But, that's not necessary a bad thing.

I had a couple decent short runs early in the week with the highlight a 5+ miler out and back on the powerlines from our house. I did that run on Wednesday morning and it was a cool, beautiful morning to be out. I fell off the wagon a bit yesterday, but it fell into the category of "running should be fun." I could have gone out and run three miles in the ark-building rain, but I thought that would be terrible. So, I bailed. With no strict/real training plan, I think that's OK.

Stuck around home today, and Mindy and Jamie came over for a run on the Cathance trails. We a had nice, leisurely 8-mile jaunt through the slippery mush, and it was a good time had by all. I did roll my left ankle at one point, and it's a bit sore this evening, but it should be fine. I have to admit, I was a bit tired by the end. Eight miles certainly isn't long, but it isn't insignificant either. Based on my "take it easy" plan, I probably shouldn't have run 8 miles today, but it was fun. And, really, that's the whole point.

Another mellow running week this week, but some other events should no doubt make it memorable.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Not Much Running

Since my Bruiser meltdown and subsequent epiphany, I haven't run very much. I've only logged a couple short jaunts here and there. Nothing to write home or blog about. But, that's OK with me. I've decided that I'm transitioning from a rest phase into an easy base-building phase. I think some easy running will be good for me. I think in about a month, I'll start ramping up the intensity.

The only thing that's still bugging me is my swearing off of ultra running. And, the part that's bugging me is my ego. In short, you don't see many people driving around with a "3.1" sticker on their car, but you do see lots of "26.2" stickers. The marathon and ultra-worlds have a built in sense of accomplishment. "I ran a 50k last week," just sounds so much cooler than "I PR'ed in a 5k." If a run a marathon people, say "Whoa." They're impressed regardless of my time. If I tell them I PRed in the 5k, they could care. But, for me, right now, the long races aren't clicking. So, I need to get over that.

Looking ahead, I have two ideas. The first is racing more often. I always say, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a 5k. So, instead of just twirling felines, I'm actually going to run. I'm not going to go all out every single time. I'll use some as workouts. Others, I'll race. Either way, I'll be getting out there just for fun. The other idea is that I'm seriously considering snowshoe racing this winter. I just need to purchase some snowshoes. Well, running snowshoes. I don't think my clunky backcountry shoes will work so well. Looking forward to it.

So, not much running, but feeling good looking ahead.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not Anemic. Probably Just Dumb.

When we last left our hero, he was trying to solve the mystery of his lackluster performances this summer. (That was the last sentence in the third person.) I went to the lab on Monday for blood work. I'm still waiting to get the official paperwork in the mail so I can see the official numbers, etc., but I did speak with the doctor. It turns out I'm not anemic. My thyroid is also AOK. So, good news.

Of course, that makes the problem, and, therefore, the solution less obvious.

That being said, I'm glad I've ruled out any medical issues. And, in fact, I'd already started formulating what I'm calling the "non-medical theory." The basis of the theory is that I'm over-trained, and that over training is causing fatigue and a major decrease in performance. Again, it has no bearing on my day to day life, so I'm not worried about my health.

So, how did this happen? Well, here's what I've come up with:

The first, and most obvious, cause is the massive increase in training volume. Or, actual training for that matter. Last year, was the first year in over ten years that I've actually trained. Ran a bit. Dabbled in a race or two. But, not trained. The increased focus, intensity and frequency would have been enough to lead to the fatigue, but I took it a step further. I trained for and ran a marathon in October of 2008. This was also my first marathon. On the heels of that, I trained for and ran a 50k trail race in May, my first ultramarathon. A look deeper inside this training, and I find from August 2008 through May of 2005 runs of the following lengths: 18, 19, 21, 24, 20, 27, 18, 20. Add into that mix some long races (10 miles, 14 miles) and a couple long runs/hikes in the mountains. It all adds up to a lot of running. Most importantly, a lot more running than I had ever done.

The reason for this is simple: I run with a group of crazy people. "I think I'll do three hundred milers this year." "This is my fourth 50 miler this year." "I ran a trail marathon yesterday, so I'm going to run an easy dozen today to take it easy." All of this is perfectly normal. All said matter of factly. However, this is not normal. It's utterly insane. I got sucked into the insanity. Completely. That being said, I owe the fact that I'm not sitting on the couch all the time to this group. Had D and I not found them, I'd still just be a dabbling runner, looking back at races from my heyday and never ahead to new challenges. It's been great, but I got sucked in. That was dumb. Now, some people can run a marathon every weekend, and perhaps someday I will, but not right now. I need to pull it back a notch or six.

Another step I need to take is something I mentioned previously: my diet. I have a great ability to eat. I'm really good at it, and I love food. I just need to make sure I'm eating enough of the right things. I'm in the process of making some changes, and more to come. For those of you thinking I've gone over the edge, I'm not giving up pork or beer. That's crazy talk.

I am talking something good from this: I'm not injured. Most of the time, it seems like a runner who overtrains to this extent suffers an injury. I'm free of major injuries. (Knock on wood.) I'm extremely encouraged by this. If I can get to this point without a stress fracture or other major malady, I'm strong. I've turned a major corner from how my "running career" has gone in the past. I was oft injured in college and those injuries are essentially what made me a dabbler for ten years. Injury free is stunning. That being said, I'm treating this current situation like an injury. I've done a couple short, easy runs since the Bruiser, and I'm going to continue to take it easy. I don't have any races on the calendar, and I'm not training for anything. I'm training to get healthy.

Looking ahead, I'm ready to get back into running the way I should have. I'm going to train for shorter races. Perhaps, I'll work my way back up to the marathon but not immediately. In hindsight, this is what I should have done in 2008, but I'm looking forward to it for 2010. In fact, I'm thinking the shorter races might be where I belong. Let's do the math:

In 2008 & 2009, I finished in the top 31% of the races in which I competed. My top 5 placings were 4%, 13%, 15%, 16% and 20% (twice). My bottom 5 were 57%, 49%, 48%, 44% and 43%. It most interesting, when you look at how those races break down:

4% - Feaster Five, '08, 5 miles
13% - Bradbury Scuffle '08, 6 miles
15% - Mid Winter Classic '09, 10 miles
16% - Bradbury Scuffle '09, 6 miles
20% - Mid Winter Classic '08, 10 miles
20% - MDI Marathon, 08, 26.2 miles

57% - Bradbury Bruiser, '09, 12 miles
49% - Mt. Washington, '09, 7.6 miles
48% - Muddy Moose, '09, 14 miles
44% - Mt. Washington '08, 7.6 miles
43% - Pineland 50k, 09, 31 miles

You can make numbers say anything you like, but here's what I think these say: I'm better at shorter races. Granted, harder races draw better fields, Pineland 50k, for example. But, I feel like I've performed better at the shorter races. (Discount the distance for Mt. Washington since it's all uphill.) Maybe that's where my talent lies. Then again, those could also be considered the easier races. That would be discouraging, but I wasn't actually training for those races. They were speed work on the way towards longer races. Take the Feaster Five, for example, I ran really well and finished in the top 4% with no 5 mile training. It was a month after the MDI marathon. I'd done zero speed work. So, the short races are what I'm going to focus on. Sure, MDI stands out as long race, in which I performed well, so that gives me hope. I do want to run another/more marathons. But, I don't want to run them until I'm ready. Plus, like racing. The atmosphere is the best. If I run shorter races, I can run more of them...provided I'm smart and not always racing all out. That sounds fun.

Wow. Never thought you'd read anything so thoughtful in this blog, did you? Needs more 80's music:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

La Sportiva is OK

In March, I picked up a new pair of shoes: La Sportiva Lynx. At first, I wasn't so sure about them, but eventually, they really grew on me. They become my go to shoe for all my short trail runs. I even did some speed work in them, and was really liking the way they felt. Until they fell apart.

At around 150 miles, I started to get a tear in the outside of left shoe in the toe box. Soon thereafter, the same started in the right shoe. Eventually, I had big hole in the left shoe and tears in both. Additionally, the laces started to fray.



At only 150 miles, I was pretty disappointed. By the time I hit 190 miles, I decided to email La Sportiva. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I received a response a day or so later. Normally, they handle returns directly through the store, but it wasn't convenient for me to back there for a return. So, they sent me a return authorization number, and I sent them back directly to La Sportiva. About 3 days after they received the shoes, I received word that the warranty department had reviewed my shoes, and they determined that the damage was covered by warranty. They are sending me a new pair.

So, the good news is that La Spotiva has solid customer service. I appreciated the prompt emails and willingness to replace my shoes. However, I don't know how much running I'm planning to do in this new pair. I really don't want them to blow out again. Plus, now that I've found the Brooks Cascadias, why would I stray? So, in short, La Sportiva is OK.

As for specific running news, I did a short, easy run on Thursday and felt appropriately creaky. It was my first run since the Bruiser, so I wasn't expecting much. That's what I got.

On Friday, I had a doctor's appointment to begin solving the mystery. She thought that anemia was a possibility, but I'm not showing any otuward signs. I explained to her that I'd probably never notice if I was running 2 or 3 miles, 2 or 3 times a week, but I have loftier goals than that. With that statement, she agreed that it was worth exploring further. I'm headed to the lab on Monday to get some blood drawn. She also hooked me up to an EKG to check my heart. To non one's surprise, my heart is fine. That being said, the nurse did hook up a ton of sticky nodes to various parts of my anatomy. I was worried that it was going to end up like this:



I did drop the "man-o-lantern" line. Thankfully, the nurse got it. And, more thankfully, the nodes came off fairly painlessly.

I also got a flu shot while I was there. Highly recommended with the baby arriving during flu season. As a result, I've felt like absolute boo boo all day. **grumble**

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bradbury Bruiser - Race Report

Our story begins in the fall of 2007. I had just started running for real again, and D and I were thinking about trying a trail race. We saw the Bradbury Bruiser on a race calendar, but we both thought 12 miles was way too far. To that point, I had done one 8 mile run, and hadn't run 12 miles since 1996. But, a friend of ours said she was planning to run it and asked if she could stay with us. Well, looks like we're running, too. I ended up running 1:49:02. I was back.

Fast forward to Sunday. I stumbled across the finish line in 2:05:38. Something just isn't right.

My plan going into the race was simple: race the first 10 miles and hang on in the O Trail, the small intestine-like never ending single track that feels like it's 24 miles long, not 2.4. Additionally, I didn't start my watch. I didn't want to get encouraged or discouraged at any point. I was going to race by feel, and when it hurt I was going to push harder. Now, based on this race course, that's not a bad plan, if you're fit. But, there was nothing in my training that pointed to me having a good race. Of course, I'm a runner, so I have an ego. I wasn't going to let my recent training results dictate how I was going to race.

I'm not going to go into details of the actual race, but picture a wind up toy with its batteries running down: that was me. After about 4 miles, I consciously slowed down, hoping to just cruise into the finish. I knew a good race wasn't in the cards. But, even as I slowed, I felt steadily worse and worse. By the time I reached the O Trail, I was in trouble. By the time I exited the O Trail, I could barely run in a straight line and lifting my legs normally was difficult. It wasn't pretty. Later, D told me I had the "Finishing the 50K face." That can't be good.

I must have looked bad because...well...a number of people told me I looked bad. It's good to have friends. And, in truth, I felt terrible. My legs, especially my quads, were extremely heavy. I was slightly nauseous. And, the water and Gatorade I was drinking couldn't be cold enough. I wanted it icy. And both Emma and Valerie told me I looked pale...well, paler than usual. And, in fact, I spent all afternoon on the couch...eating.

So, it was a terrible day. But, it confirmed what I suspected. Something just ain't right. For the last couple weeks, I've suspected that my lack of success racing this summer and general fatigue while running was related to something medical, specifically, anemia. While chatting with Emma post-race, she asked me: "Are you anemic?" Hmmmm...maybe there's something to this. I've made a doctor's appointment, and I hope that a bad day will lead to a positive step forward.

As far as my running goes for now, I'm going to treat this like an injury. I have a good excuse to take a break from running for a little while. Well, at least a break from serious training. So, my next race will be...who knows? And, right now, I couldn't care. My plan is to get healthy and figure this out. And, you know what? I think that will be kinda fun. See you on the other side.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Roads are Different

(Insert Obligatory Willie.)



Today, I ran 8 miles on the roads. (7.75 to be exact.) Not sure why, but I decided it would be a good idea. As you can see from the chart on right -----> I've done very little road running this year. This was the longest road run I've done since...well, let me check...since Mt. Washington on June 22. But that doesn't really count...let me check again...holy crap! The last road run of this length was this exact run...on March 20! Holy Schnikies!!!

Needless to say, it showed. I felt...well, odd. I didn't feel bad, but I sure felt different. Total lack of smoothness. By the end, my hip flexors were unhappy. Going into the run, my right hamstring was already cranky. It started tight and never really got any better. I focused on keeping my gait uniform, but it was tough. My leg felt short, and I felt like I was chopping my stride. In the end, though, I think it turned out OK.

Oh, and on the roads, you could potentially get hit by a car. I didn't get hit, which is nice, but one vehicle sure got close. After it happened, I began thinking about the thousands of miles I've logged on the roads since I started running in high school. I've never been hit, and I don't plan on getting nicked anytime soon. Of course, that reminiscing got me to thinking about one summer, when I was in absolutely killer, ripped, totally jacked shaped: the summer of '95. (Seriously, I was awesome.) Unfortunately, summer of '95 sounds a lot like the "Summer of '69." So, the second half of the run was all Bryan Adams.



CRAP. Stupid Canadians.

Ended the run in 1:05:15, which averages out to 8:25 per mile. Not bad for feeling mediocre and taking it easy. So, I'll take it. Now, off to the foam roller.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cramming It In

Of late, most of my midweek runs have been of the "just squeezing it in" variety. Maybe I'm a bad planner. Maybe I'm lazy. Maybe I'm a procrastinator. Maybe my life is wacky. Maybe it's all of the above. Whatever the case, I've still been getting the miles in, which is key.

The negative aspect of these crammed into the day runs is the pacing. When I'm just squeezing the run in, I tend to feel rushed, and I start out way too fast. And, once I get going at a certain pace, I have a hard time backing off. I'm never immediately aware that I'm going too fast, and I never back off all that much. If the run is short, it's not a short term issue. Of course, it's rarely a longish run, I'm squeezing in. The real problem in the long term is the fatigue. By accidentally pushing it on my short runs, it limits my recovery. Could be an issue.

Then again, maybe it's not. The positive is that I'm getting used to running at a faster pace. From training on trails for marathons, I'm one giant slow twitch muscle right now. Racing a half marathon is easier than racing a mile. So, perhaps it might not be all bad. For instance, today, I squeezed in 3 miles at a very comfortable 8:12 pace.

The lesson here: I have no idea what I'm doing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Speed Work...Sort of

Thursday marked the start of the Fall Trail Running Series at Great Glen Trails. More importantly, it meant that I no longer had any excusing for avoiding speed work. No that I was consciously avoiding it, but I wasn't consciously doing it.

The good news is that this is fun speed work. The course is 3.5 miles and it's a mix of single track and carriage roads. Plus, one half mile is an entirely new single track section, so it's rough and rugged—in other words, fun. The smooth carriage roads are no fun. Plus, that's where you're supposed to run fast. I'm not good at fast.

As for the race itself, it went well. I didn't go all out. Just tried to remain steady. It's the first real speed work I've done since the Bradbury Scuffle, so I wasn't expecting much. I perhaps went out a touch too hard, but I was feeling good. There is a tough-ish single track section in the last mile, and I was really rigging up on the hills through it. Somewhere after 2 miles, I caught a guy who started a minute ahead of me. I'd been trailing him for a while, and then it was his turn. After we exchanged pleasantries, I blew right through a well-marked turn, and he was nice enough to call me back. I passed him back, and he stayed fairly close. He got very close and I faded through the single track. I did end up finishing just ahead of him, but I'm not sure if he was just being nice to me.

One thing I've really been paying attention to is my upper body. I realized that I've been running partially hunched over. During the race, I really focused on maintaining an upright position. Additionally, I realized that I haven't been using my arms on the uphills. Instead of pumping them, they've just sort of hung. All of this definitely helped during the race. I think working on and focusing on my upper body will be a real key moving ahead.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cascadias, Ankles, Bees & Tiffany.



That's how I feel about my new shoes. That's right, I found new shoes, and I even like them! So, what exactly are these magical moccasins? Brooks Cascadia. They're dreamy. And they fit! Woohoo!

A little back story: I had the opportunity to wander around the big city a week or so ago, and I dropped into a variety of footwear purveyors. After 7 or 8 stops without any success, I stopped where I should have initially: Maine Running Company. Unfortunately, they didn't have my size: 9, but I decided to try on the 9.5 anyway. Why? I have no idea. I've never ever gone up a size in a pair of shoes. My feet are too tiny to up-size. To my surprise, they actually fit. I took them outside for a quick test run, and they felt great. Again, I've never ever in the history of everything that's happened ever have I ever gone up a 1/2 size. But, they work.

Aside from the magical fit, here's what I like about them: First, they're a neutral shoe. Every other shoe I've ever run in has been a stability shoe. But, if you really think about it: a stability shoe doesn't make much sense in a trail shoe. Flexibility and responsiveness are key, and the extraordinarily stable Merrells I've been running in are neither. I like them, but they're moderately cinder blockish. Secondly, they're fairly light. Lighter shoes make everything better. Third, the traction is wicked tractiony. I used an extremely complex formula to calculate that.

So, yup, new shoes for me!

Uh oh, I think I over liked my new shoes...

The flip side to the story goes back to reason I love my shoes #1. Since these are the first neutral shoes I've had, my legs have taken note. Without the stability, I've been using more and different muscles. Then again, perhaps I shouldn't blame the shoes. I wore them for seven consecutive runs. Might have been a bit too much too soon. Nothing major, but definitely a few noticeable creaks.

Speaking of the actual runs, they've been going really well. A couple short to less short runs throughout the week, mostly shoe testers: trying different terrain, etc. Each run was successful, and I was feeling groovy. I ran with Danny, the tropical storm, on Saturday morning. An hour on the Cathance River trails, and I was beyond soggy. I was cold for the first 5 minutes, but was comfortable once I warmed up. My Moeben sleeves were a good choice. But, as soon as I stopped I was really chilled. About 5 minutes after I finished the run, I was already taking a warm shower. I have no idea how Ian and Emma ran 2 laps of the Bradbury Bruiser course that same morning.

Sunday afternoon, I was able to squeeze in another run on the Cathance trails, and even though it was much shorter, it was much more eventful. D was out on a walk with her parents, so I headed off on my own. Within about 5 minutes, I rolled my left ankle. Not a tendon tearing, bone crushing roll, but a roll nonetheless. I was in need of a bio break, so I was paying more attention to finding the perfect tree than the trail. About 15 minutes later, I was coming to end of the Rapids Trail which was overgrown with pricker bushes and goldenrod. Suddenly, one of the prickers jabbed painfully into my right shin. I couldn't really figure out why this one particular thorn was so painful. I looked down, and there was a bee clinging to my leg. Apparently, the bee had been enjoying his pollination duties, when I came tromping through. Luckily, I'm not allergic to bee stings, but it still hurt a fair amount. I could feel it for the rest of the run.

Monday morning I was barely feeling the effects of either of my mishaps, so I headed to "The Brad" for my planned long run. I ran the Bruiser course without the O Trail and about half the Scuffle course. I was out for almost 2.5 hours. It was a long time to run by myself. I had highs and lows, and it was good practice dealing with the lows. Not fun, but necessary. The lowest of the low...this in my head:



If I can get through that, I can get through anything.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cramping my Style, but Still Stylin'

Normally, my lack of posts means all is not well in the land of Ryan. Quite the contrary this time, the running is going runningly (not swimmingly) and things are groovy—just busy. So, tragically, your life is left with a void due to my lack of blogging.

Come with me now in a journey through my training log over the last week or so...

I closed out last week with two short runs. The first on Thursday was an out and back on the powerlines from home in what I logged as "almost hot" conditions. Not sure what that means, but I do remember being low on energy because I ate very little all day. Yes, I'm an idiot. Saturday, I was not only idiotic, but unlucky. I found myself in the big city (Portland) for a chunk of the afternoon, so I decided to tour the famous Back Cove. Unfortunately, I made it there just after it had stopped raining, and the sun was blaring at it's maximum intensity. It was way too hot out there. Had I started 30 minutes earlier, it would have been perfect. Either way, I managed a semi-quick, but comfortable clockwise lap in 27:50. Seemed just right for the effort and the heat.

Sunday started this week off with a bang with a great run at Bradbury with some of the crew, including Jim, Shauna, Mindy, Valerie and Yana. Floyd made a brief appearance, but was quickly lost as the Bradbury trails tend to swallow him up. Mindy, being the uber-motivated over achiever that she is, had already run one lap of the Scuffle course when we headed out, and proceeded to run two more full laps. She is an animal. I ran one full lap, and a slightly truncated second—no Knight's Woods trail on the return, which I'm calling 11.5. I felt great the whole way—nice and relaxed—but the 127% humidity combined with the still-not-fully-recovered-from-roasty-toasty effort on Saturday was taking its toll. So, I decided to cut it short and finish on a high note rather than limp into the finish. All in all, an awesomely soggy two hours on the trails. I also feel like I did a better job with my fueling: more consistent. I think that on long runs I need to make sure I down a gel or Shot Bloks every half hour, regardless. I'd been falling into the trap of "Oh, I feel fine, I can go a little longer," and then not having enough energy in the latter stages of the runs.

The rest of this week has been three shortish runs, and I've felt great on all of them. There's a little bit of the lost spring in my step, and I've felt great afterward. I even spontaneously added a .5 mile section of singletrack to my run last night at Great Glen Trails. I was headed one way, then all of a sudden, I found myself banging a right into Outback. It was just too nice out not to extend the run. Good stuff all around.

The only negative that I've discovered is some cramping on my afternoon runs. Nothing major, but definitely noticeable. No problems on my morning runs, because, presumably, I've eaten much less. The belly has been less happy in the PM. Sympathy cramps? Not a huge deal, but it's happened enough times that it's more than a coincidence. The problem is: I'm always hungry. If I don't eat throughout the day, I'll never have the energy to get through my run. I'm going to start monitoring my food intake, both what and the timing, and see if I can discover a pattern.

The biggest news of the week is my new shoes. I might marry them. Don't tell the missus. More on those later.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's Hawt

Well, summer is finally here. Running when the temps are in the 80's has never been my preference. It does remind me of training during summers home from college back in the day, which is kind of fun.

Today, I headed for the Commons for 5 miles. I was a bit sweaty. I did manage to take out 5 deer flies, which eases the heat momentarily each time. But, it was obvious I was feeling the heat. I thought I was running much faster than I was. The loop is about 5.1-5.2, and I clocked 44:16. Felt more like 38:16. Ugh. I wrung out my shirt before I drove home. Yuk.

I've brought water with me on the last two runs. We got D a handheld bottle so she can stay hydrated on her runs now, so I thought I'd try it out. Overall, it's not bad. It does only leave me with one hand to kill deer flies, but the hydration is worth the trade off. I always know it's there, but it's not annoying. The bottle holder we have is only 10 oz, and I'm not sure I'd want to go any larger. No idea how some ultra-types run with two 20+ ouncers. Maybe I need to do some curls.

For all you runofiles out there, are you aware that the World Championships are going on right now? Yeah, I barely was myself. I've watched a bit, but not much. Compare this to my eyeballs being glued to the tube for the Tour de France, and it's a bit sad. But, I have some theories:

1. The coverage: I know I've complained about television coverage of track & field before, but it absolutely kills me. Tom Hammond could be in a coma and be more excited than he sounds. Plus, he's not particularly knowledgeable. Add that to the least imaginative coverage ever, and you get mediocre television. Compare that to the greatest sports commentary team of all time, Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin, covering the Tour, and it's no contest. I do have a number of ideas to improve the coverage, but that's for another post.

The one bright spot for me is Ato Boldon. He does a pretty solid job with the sprints. Plus he said this following Bolt's WR: "There's is no one on this planet or any other that we know of..." who has ever gone that fast. That's awesome. He can't pull off those specs, though.

2. Lance: He's a media phenomenon. People are drawn to him. Both positively and negatively. The ratings were up some ridiculous amount this year worldwide. Lance had pretty much everything to do with that. On the flip side, track has Usain Bolt. From a media perspective, he's very similar to Lance in every way. BUT...he's no on the track for very long. If you include the qualifying rounds in the 100 and 200 meters, you can only watch him for less than 2 minutes. He;s absolutely electric in both his perfomance and personality, but he's no where to be found during the women's discus. The closest we've had is Dan vs. Dave. Ooops.